My Success

(Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash)

I thought I was never good enough
At least, that’s what I was told
Just when I thought I’d be a-okay
And my life would be paved with gold

~~~

Given what I had been through
From the tender age of eight
It’s hardly surprising my dream died a death
I’d never amounted to anything great

~~~

I failed my exams at eleven plus*
I flunked most of my GCSEs
My teachers couldn’t understand
Everyone else passed with ease

~~~

I wanted to be a speech therapist
For people who’d pulled through a stroke
But, without a university degree
They thought I was a bit of a joke

~~~

Instead, I became a secretary
And learned to do shorthand and type
I worked in the City of London
Learning Office Practice and Skype

~~~

I applied to a shipping company
And there had a wonderful boss
I came on leaps and bounds
I was far from being a loss

~~~
I worked in whole life insurance
And then, I went on to a bank
I proved all the teachers wrong
I was NOT as thick as a plank!

(Photo by Romain V on Unsplash)

* The eleven-plus is a standardized examination administered to some students in England and Northern Ireland in their last year of primary education, which governs admission to grammar schools and other secondary schools which use academic selection. The name derives from the age group for secondary entry: 11–12 years

Taken from Wikipedia

The Missing Mum Years

My childhood home

This is my dear late Mum’s house as it stands now. It was my childhood home until I married at twenty years of age and moved out. I’ve been reminiscing about this house over the last couple of days. One of my sisters had been back to visit there recently. Although she advised me against it, I asked her to share her photo with me. Big mistake! Huge mistake, in fact. It’s no longer how I remember it. Gone is the beautiful orange door (not that it’s visible in this picture) – it’s been replaced by a dull grey. The window frames have all been painted stark white over the original orange. Orange was Mum’s favourite colour. The steps outside are also not visible in this photo. The neat box hedge has completely overgrown, as has the glorious pink azalea shrub. I feel so sad. I shouldn’t have asked to see this photo. I should have known it would be different now, six years after losing my Mum. I still miss her so much. I always will.

The steps at the front of the house were a barrier for me for the last four years before Mum passed away. Being a wheelchair user now, there was no way I could climb them to get into the house. To make matters worse, Mum was severely agoraphobic, which meant she couldn’t leave there. It meant that we didn’t see each other for all that time. It broke my heart (and hers). We spoke on the phone a lot, especially towards the end. I would call two or three times a day to check she was okay. She mainly was as fit as a fiddle … until she had her stroke. Before that happened, she would vigorously mow the grass, raking it up, digging and planting flowers and tomatoes.

Those last four years were so painful. I didn’t feel sorry myself; I never did, but I felt angry and frustrated about my disability stopping me from seeing her. It was hard to come to terms with, and we missed each other terribly. The only time I got to see her in those last years was when, towards the end, she was admitted to hospital after her stroke. Hospitals are nearly always accessible. She was never the same after that happened. I wrote a post about this at the time. You can read about it at https://elliethompson.uk/2016/11/26/grief-without-death/.

I’m glad I can’t see the inside of the house; it must be so different now, and it would only upset me further. The kitchen was always my favourite room. The kitchen units were orange, as was her one-person teapot, which sat permanently on the side waiting to be filled. She loved her cups of tea and her toast and marmalade, which she’d have for breakfast every morning. After we lost Mum, there were all the usual formalities to arrange; the funeral, the interment, the house to sort out etc. My sisters came from various parts of the country to deal with all this, but I had no choice, being unable to go up those damn steps. My sisters were very kindly involving me as much as possible by taking pictures of everything, so I could decide what I’d like to have. I chose Mum’s little orange teapot. It reminded me so much of her.

Mum’s orange teapot sitting comfortably on my kitchen windowsill

I have a tradition now. Every year, on Mum’s birthday and on Mother’s Day, I take myself off to a quaint tea shop in my city. I order myself a pot of tea (I usually drink coffee) and some toast and marmalade. Sometimes, I order a slice of cake – Mum always enjoyed her cake. Having recently bought the loveliest card I could find in John Lewis, I sit for a couple of hours and write to her. I write it as a conversation between us, just as if she were there with me, drinking tea and eating toast or cake. It makes me feel closer to her at those times. I wish she were still here to join me. But, however much I write, it’ll never make up for those four years when I couldn’t see her. I missed so much of her later life. I think I’ll always miss her – the pain doesn’t lessen. Perhaps, it will in time.

GRIEF WITHOUT DEATH

I miss my Mum. I miss her so much.  A death you would think.  No, my Mum hasn’t passed away, but she’s had a severe stroke and has been in the hospital for nearly three months now. I miss her presence in my life – she was always there to talk to when I had problems with my children growing up and always in these later years when I’ve been battling with my mental heath.

She used to support me through everything and as the years ticked by, I was the one supporting her (and rightly so). We would talk on the phone for many hours, putting the world to rights and putting each other to rights. We rarely had a cross word.

I have to confess, there have been times when it’s felt a bit of a chore to have to phone my Mum every day, sometimes twice a day in more recent years.  I would, perhaps, think, “I want to spend more time with friends” on that particular night or “I’d like to spend the time writing my blog”.  Worse still, I’d be keen to text a good friend for a heart-to-heart or get that email written that I’ve been meaning to do for days.

Now, the evenings come, and I find myself thinking,  “I’ll just phone to see how ……….” – My sentence is cut short by the stark realisation that my Mum is not occupying the same space as she used to do. Something else is in her place – a horrible silence broken only by memories of how our relationship used to be.

Gone are our chats, our shared laughter and our mutual support. There are no long discussions about what she had planted in her garden that day with the full expectation of seeing her little seedlings and shoots develop into strong, tall plants. She’d tell me how she’d tied them up with green, garden twine against bamboo canes and watch them develop and bloom.

She won’t go back to that house again, nor her beloved garden that was her sanctuary, her escape from the world when life got difficult – not now. She could never manage the stairs, feed herself or live without 24-hour care and yet she’d managed independently since her separation from my father. She had lived in our family home for over sixty years. And to think the grass was being cut by her only two weeks before she had her stroke.

The damage to her brain is so extensive that she’s still unable to communicate verbally or in any other way,  and any hope of further improvements is met with serious doubt by the doctors and consultants.  The physios, the OTs and the speech and language therapists are not hopeful either.  I try to talk to her on the phone when I can’t get there – hoping to get a response but my questions always have the same replies – nothing – it’s heartbreaking.

I’m still travelling up to the City by train to see her at least once a week. The journey is always tough, fraught with difficulties and exhausting but I need to be there. I need to retain that little bit of hope. However, she isn’t even able to acknowledge that I’m there and I wonder where she has gone inside that broken shell of a body.

I feel I should not be grieving as she is still present with me. But I am – I’m grieving the loss of the person that my Mum once was; her presence in my life, her faded personality and her love, care and affection. She is no longer there.  But grieving when she is still alive; is that right? Is that acceptable? It is simply grief without death.

STROKE – COMPASSIONATE LEAVE

Image result for Right Brain Stroke Damage

Life has had a nasty habit of throwing us curveballs now and then. That ball has certainly knocked me down many times, but I think the important thing is that it’s not how far I fall but whether I can get up again from there. That’s true for everybody at some time, but I feel like I’ve had to do an awful lot of climbing back up over the years.

I don’t feel sorry for myself though as we all have to cope with this experience we call life. I’ve had a significant knockdown just recently which is limiting the amount of time that I have to write my blog – not that you could ever really call me a prolific writer – I’d say more a sporadic writer.

Right now, things are tough and a real challenge. My mum was sick before I wrote my last post – she was in a local hospital with pneumonia. That was bad enough. She is elderly and becoming rather frail now, and illnesses and accidents are becoming a common occurrence now, in her 87th year.

A week later while still on the ward, Mum was found collapsed in the bathroom – she’d had a stroke. The very thing she had always dreaded and said: “It’ll never happen to me”. I thought, until this event, perhaps somewhat naively she was going to be right – that she would live to an even riper old age than she was already.

An ambulance rushed her to the main City Hospital. A friend took me there later that day, and it was a real shock. There was my mum, laying almost helplessly unable to do anything. The whole of one side of her body was lifeless. She couldn’t move her arm or her leg; she couldn’t sit up – not even with support – she lurched sideways into a sad heap and had no balance. Her face had dropped so that her eyelid drooped and what was left of her smile had been taken away.

Two weeks later, she still hasn’t made much progress in her movements. Her speech is slurred, very soft and infrequent as her cognitive function has also been affected so that her brain is working much more slowly to process information. She’s unable to swallow properly so is on a diet of small portions of rather undignified, pureed food which she still manages to pull a face at in an odd way and I just know she’s thinking, “Why am I being given baby food?” I can’t begin to imagine how awful it must be for her to be trapped inside her mind without being able to express herself clearly or barely communicate.

Needless to say, her appetite is almost non-existent, and I can’t say I blame her when food has to be spoonfed into her now crooked mouth. Pureed shepherd’s pie and carrots, having been liquidised within an inch of their life, wouldn’t appeal much to me either.

I am travelling up to the City Hospital every other day (a journey by train in my wheelchair, George of two-and-a-half hours each way). I spend as long as I can with my mum but then return home along with the hoards of workers turning out from their places of work to head homeward. Travelling with an electric wheelchair is not fun when all around me are rushing, pushing and shoving to get home after a long day or a long shift.

As you will have gathered, I might not be able to make an appearance very often at the moment, so please excuse me if I have been unable to read, like or comment on your blog. I have only had the time to sort through the most important emails and phone calls, and it’s likely to be that way for some time. Thank you for your understanding, my friends 😦